Museum Matters

Making and Unmaking Mexico’s National Collections

Miruna Achim (Editor), Susan Deans-Smith (Editor), Sandra Rozental (Editor)
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This is a book about objects. Stones, ruins, bones, mummies, mannequins, statues, photographs, fakes, instruments, and natural history specimens all formed part of Mexico’s National Museum complex at different moments across two centuries of collecting and display.

Museum Matters traces the emergence, consolidation, and dispersal of this national museum complex by telling the stories of its objects. Objects that have been separated over time are brought back together in this book in order to shed light on the interactions and processes that have forged things into symbols of science, aesthetics, and politics. The contributors to this volume illuminate how collections came into being or ceased to exist over time, or how objects moved in and out of collections and museum spaces. They explore what it means to move things physically and spatially, as well as conceptually and symbolically.

Museum Matters unravels the concept of the national museum. By unmaking the spaces, frameworks, and structures that form the complicated landscape of national museums, this volume brings a new way to understand the storage, displays, and claims about the Mexican nation’s collections today.

Miruna Achim, Christina Bueno, Laura Cházaro, Susan Deans-Smith, Frida Gorbach, Haydeé López Hernández, Carlos Mondragón, Bertina Olmedo Vera, Sandra Rozental, Mario Rufer


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“This exciting new volume gathers penetrating new studies on the formation of Mexico’s national collections, from antiquities to natural history specimens. The volume is essential reading for anyone interested in the formation of museums, particularly how such institutions participate in the production of knowledge over time. Filled with strikingly original and important contributions, the volume will be widely read by scholars in history, anthropology, museum studies, art history, archaeology, and other related fields.”—Joanne Pillsbury, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Museum Matters mines the vast collections of material culture in Mexico’s museological archipelago. Through its focus on objects—some fake, some lost, some devalued or deaccessioned over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—the volume lays the groundwork for new directions in Mexican history while also complicating discourses that view the museum as a totalizing instrument of state authority and control. Rather than focus exclusively on Mexico’s spectacular collections of archaeology and fine art, this volume emphasizes other material domains, such as human remains, taxidermy, glass models, and natural specimens, to name only a few. The essays are generative as they mine the archives of Mexicanidad, offering critical insights, new horizons, and even radical opportunities for revaluing or intervening in how the nation displays and constitutes its museological patrimony.”—Mary K. Coffey, author of How a Revolutionary Art Became Official Culture: Murals, Museums, and the Mexican State


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